Re-wilding the Bauhaus: what its foundation course should be like today

To mark its centenary this year, the Bauhaus has published Design Rehearsals: Conversations About Bauhaus Lessons. Contributors to the book were shown some of the images created at that time and asked, “What do you see?” My contribution is a response to images from Oskar Schlemmer’s class on ‘The Human’.

The Man portrayed in these images is a lonely one.

A preoccupation with the human being as an autonomous subject must have felt liberating at the time – but today these images remind us of what we have lost: a sense of connection to each other, and with the living world.

Situated and embodied experiences that once gave us meaning – a sense of interdependency with living systems – are replaced in these images by abstraction and ecological indifference.

The sadness triggered by these images can be productive: they contain the seeds of a Vorkurs, or Foundation Course, to replace what has been lost.

This course would foster ecological literacy, and a whole-systems understanding of the world.

It would reunite two worlds that have been sundered: wisdom traditions from other places and times, and the latest insights of systems thinking and complexity science.

The course would expose students to complex interactions between life-forms, rocks, atmosphere, and water. It would help them discover that the entire Earth is animated by interactions among systems at different geographical and temporal scales.

The experience of mapping biotic communities would teach them that everything is connected – from sub-microscopic viruses, to the vast subsoil networks that support trees.

Art, in the new course, would ensure that students connect with living systems emotionally, and not just rationally.

By making students curious about “what we’re inside of”, in the words of Nora Bateson, art would teach students to explore complex interdependencies with joy – even when they remain perplexed.

By making them aware of the power of small actions to transform the bigger picture, art would also foster activity – not just awareness, or introspection.

Many core elements of such a course already exist. Pockets of vitality can be found wherever students are attentive to the relationships between living organisms and their environment.

Ilya Prigogene described such experiments as ‘small islands of coherence’ in an otherwise chaotic world. http://thackara.com/notopic/industrial-production-is-not-the-purpose-of-life/

Caring for life – and its interdependence with the nonhuman world – is a new source of value on these islands.

And because ecological practice involves new ways of thinking about connection, patterns and context, the new course would bring designers quite naturally in contact with adjacent disciplines such as climatology, hydrology, geography, psychology, history, and many more.

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Urban-Rural Re-connection

Urban-Rural Connection special issue – with my (6k words) paper Bioregioning: Pathways to Urban-Rural Reconnection and a reading list. Keywords: Bioregion | Urban-rural reconnection | Civic ecology | Social infrastructure | Smart villages | System change | Knowledge ecologies

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Social Food Forum: the takeaways

Above: a contadinner, organised in Italy by VaZapp

As a legacy of #Matera2019 in Italy, a meeting of 15 social food curators met in Matera for the launch of a Social Food Forum and Social Food Atlas. Social Food Projects include municipal gardens and urban farms; community meals; social harvest festivals; farmer-to-farmer meet-ups; food waste platforms; community kitchens; community baking and brewing sites; care farms; school gardens; street food festivals; cooperative grain growing; farm hacks; regional gatherings; farm tours; and many more A two minute video is here.

We discussed two main topics in Matera: how to describe the different kinds of value created by social food projects; and, how to do more of this work, with more partners, and in more places, in the near future. Here are our main findings.

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How To Thrive In the Next Economy: Preface to the Chinese edition

A cultural disconnection between the man-made world and the biosphere lies behind the grave challenges we face today. We either don’t think about rivers, soils, and biodiversity at all – or we treat them as resources whose only purpose is to feed the economy. This ‘metabolic rift’ – between the living world, and the economic one – leaves us starved of meaning and purpose. We have to heal this damaging gap.

This book is Read More »

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From Neighbourhood To Bioregion: The City as a Living System

I wrote the following text for a new book, Human Cities: Challenging The City Scale (published by Cite du Design and Clear Village).

The Greek physician Hippocrates described the effects of “airs, waters, and places” on the health of individuals and communities. For a short period, the industrial age distracted us from this whole-systems understanding of the world – but we are now learning again to think of cities as habitats, and as ecosystems, that co-exist on a single living planet.

Humanising the city in this context – making it healthy for people – therefore means making it habitable for all of life, not just human life. It means thinking of the city as a local living economy, not as a machine. And it means the embrace of biodiversity, and local economic activity, as better measures of a city’s health than the amount of money that flows through it. Read More »

Posted in city & bioregion, food systems & design | 1 Response

Two-wheeled logistics: a city manager’s 19-point to-do list

(Above, in 2018: large areas of Shanghai have fallen silent thanks to the widespread use of electric cargo bikes; there’s hardly a white van to be seen)

City Manager’s To-Do List

1. To see what your city’s two-wheeled future could be like, visit India and marvel at the richness of bike-based commerce. Then go to Indonesia and marvel at the range of services available on the Go-Jek platform.  And visit Shanghai, where large areas of of the city have fallen silent thanks to the widespread use of electric cargo bikes; there’s hardly a white van to be seen

1   Next, develop a shared vision among stakeholders – an approach pioneered Read More »

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From commodities, to connection: A platform for the co-op grains movement

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here below is a project scenario.

Between Autumn 2015 and Autumn 2016, in an artist-led project called A Field Of Wheat, a collective made up of 42 members of the public, the food industry, farming community, artists and researchers become active stakeholders in a field of wheat in Branston Booths, Lincolnshire, England.

Following two years of research into the culture and economics of wheat growing on a local and global scale, the Field of Wheat project meant building relationships with the region’s farmers, representatives of the farming industry, local historians, and researchers.

A direct outcome of this experiment is a project called – the live prototype of a co-op grains movement. Sixty citizens have each invested in a farmer’s field for a year. Together with the farmer, they decide what to grow, how to grow it and what happens with the crop.

#OurField is a shared farming experience: It supports farmers financially and emotionally, and  connects mostly city people to what it takes to grow food.

#OurField is brilliant experiment. It has huge potential. But building on this opportunity is easier said than done. As is true for most pioneers, the founders and organisers of #OurField lack the time and space to build the co-operation platform they know is needed.

So, one project scenario for the #api_MRRD masters is easily described: an ideal candidate would spend spend a year developing the prototype of an #OurField platform – together with the movement’s founders, a farmer from the North Wales region, and relevant other partners.

 

 

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Welsh Chapels and Coworking

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here is a project scenario.

The 6,426 chapels in Wales (like Capel Salem chapel in Pwllheli, above) were once at at the heart of community life in remote communities.

There are numerous ways chapels could be be part of the next economy, too – but these ways need to be designed, and with diverse collaborators.

Possibilities range from CoWoLi (Coworking-Coliving), or new kinds of creative residencies, to learning hubs and new kinds of school.

Scroll down for other #api_MRRD project ideas.

 

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Connected Botanic Garden

 

At Pontio, in North Wales, a new Masters by Research in Relational Design (#api_MRRD) helps you make a positive step-change in a live wellness project for a region. Here is a project scenario.

When the first botanical gardens were established 3,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, they combined scientific enquiry with public education.

Today’s botanical gardens, ecomuseums – and, in the UK especially, #National Parks –  are looking for new ways to engage citizens – and as active participants, not just as paying visitors. These new relationships need to be designed, enabled and supported.

One #api_MRRD project scenario could be to work with Tregorth Botanic Garden (top); develop new relationships; and design a platform to enable them. 

is needed  in national parks the world over. An inspiring example of this approach was envisaged by @DubberlyDesign in their project Engaging members to re-imagine National Geographic

Scroll down for other #api_MRRD project ideas.

 

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